US President Donald Trump has continued making claims about the correlation between immigration, crime and illicit drugs, despite government figures showing otherwise.
“It’s looking like [the Democrats] really want open borders, and they want really crime to pour in,” the President told Mike Huckabee, the former republican Arkansas Governor, and now TV host on the faith-based, family Trinity Broadcasting Network.
That has been the President’s major talking point as he builds a nexus between would-be migrants and outlaw crime gangs and the illicit drug trade.
His most sensational claims are that the country is in danger of being “overwhelmed” by “massive increases in illegal crossings” that will bring “horrible crime”.
But the administration’s own figures tell a very different story.
Last year the number of illegal migrants detained at the US south-west border hit their lowest level in 46 years, immigrants commit crime at lower rates than native-born Americans, and scarcely any are gangsters, according to Stephanie Leutert, director of the Mexico Security Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin.
“In this last fiscal year there were 228 MS-13 [gang] members who were apprehended at the southern border by the border patrol,” she told PM.
“Now, 228 sounds like a really large amount until you realise that 303,000 people were detained in total.”
She writes for a law and transparency blog called Lawfare, which focuses on US national security questions.
“Despite all of the rhetoric that this is the invasion of the border and that there’s floods of people coming across, the numbers of people who are apprehended right now are down significantly from past years,” she said.
Ms Leutert said that in 2000 the border patrol detained 1.6 million people crossing the border, but this past fiscal year the number was just over 300,000 — a 1.3 million person difference.
“Just on those numbers, this is absolutely not the crisis situation that it’s made out to be.”
And she said the demographics of immigration had changed from mostly males, from Mexico, crossing the border to work in agriculture, construction and low-skilled labour.
“Now you have more accompanied children, families, more women with children, men with small children,” Ms Luetert told PM.
Today migrants are leaving Central America for different sorts of reasons, including violence, persecution and the very gangs that the President has referred to, she said.
Meanwhile, despite Mr Trump’s climbdown on family separation with last week’s executive order, protesters are still piling on the pressure by staging demonstrations outside processing centres where children are being housed.
More than 2000 children are yet to be returned to their parents.